EDF Health

PART 3: Busting more industry-perpetrated myths about new chemicals and worker protection under TSCA

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 1          Part 2         Part 3

I have been blogging in the last few weeks about myths the chemical industry is perpetrating about the adequacy and legality of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent reviews of the risks that chemicals just entering the market may present to workers.  In this post, I address another such myth that, unfortunately, EPA has swallowed hook, line, and sinker.  This myth was laid out by one of the industry witnesses at the March 13 House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on EPA’s failures to protect workers from chemical risks.

One wonders when EPA will start doing what Congress told it to do, first in 1976 and then again, with renewed vigor in 2016:  Protect workers under TSCA – using TSCA’s authorities to meet TSCA’s health standard, not OSHA’s.

I’ll get to this third myth in a moment.  But let me first try to crystallize what is at stake in this debate.  While the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has always given EPA authority to regulate workplace risks, the 2016 amendments to TSCA strengthened EPA’s authority and mandate to protect workers.  TSCA now expressly identifies workers as a “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation.”  See the definition of that term in paragraph 12 here.  TSCA then requires EPA to identify and assess potential risks to such subpopulations when reviewing both new and existing chemicals.  Finally, it requires EPA to use its TSCA authorities to impose restrictions on any chemical found to present an “unreasonable risk” – which is TSCA’s health standard – to any such subpopulation.

In a word, TSCA requires EPA to protect workers under TSCA – using TSCA’s authorities to meet TSCA’s health standard, not OSHA’s.

Both before and after the 2016 TSCA amendments, the chemical industry has sought to compel or convince EPA not to regulate workplaces under TSCA, and instead to defer to OSHA.  Industry wants this because OSHA’s authority and capacity are severely limited and its legal requirements for regulating toxic substances (“health standards” in OSHA parlance) allow vastly greater risks to workers than do TSCA’s (see my previous post).

Sadly, under the Trump EPA, industry is getting its wish.  At industry’s urging, EPA is acting in a manner that is wholly contrary to TSCA – and is less health-protective than even under TSCA before the 2016 reforms.

Now let’s get back to more myth-busting.   Read More »

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PART 2: Busting more industry-perpetrated myths about new chemicals and worker protection under TSCA

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 1          Part 2         Part 3

This post shows why the chemical industry has been so anxious to convince EPA to defer to OSHA rather than regulate worker risks from new chemicals under TSCA.

I started blogging last week about myths the chemical industry is perpetrating when it comes to EPA’s review of the risks new chemicals may present to workers.  In this post, I address another such myth, one that the industry promotes to argue why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can and should defer to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in addressing the risks posed by new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  This myth was on full display at last week’s House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on EPA’s failures to protect workers from chemical risks.

Myth #2:  OSHA regulations provide ample protection of workers from any exposures to new chemicals EPA is reviewing under TSCA.   Read More »

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Long-Delayed Methylene Chloride Ban Finalized but Still Leaves Workers at Risk

Increasing pressure from families, lawmakers, and advocates forces EPA’s half-step on deadly chemical

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has finalized a rule that bans methylene chloride in paint strippers for consumer uses but still allows use of the deadly products in workplaces. Instead of banning commercial uses, as it originally proposed to do more than two years ago, EPA is merely starting a process to gather input on what a possible future certification and training program might look like – delaying any action for years.   Read More »

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PART 1: Busting industry-perpetrated myths about new chemicals and worker protection under TSCA

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

Part 1          Part 2         Part 3

This week the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing on EPA’s failures to protect workers from chemical risks.  It featured a number of compelling testimonies from worker representatives:  auto workers, firefighters, teachers, and farmworkers.  It also featured testimony from a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) official, who made the case for why it is so critical that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comply with the mandates and use the enhanced authorities Congress gave the agency under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to protect workers exposed to chemicals.  He detailed why OSHA is unable to do so, describing OSHA as “outmatched” and having “exhausted its capacity” in the face of decades of severe budget cuts and limited legal authority.

The chemical industry is perpetuating damaging myths about worker protection at EPA and OSHA, which have unfortunately taken a firm hold in the Trump EPA.

Unfortunately, the hearing also included testimonies from two chemical industry representatives who painted a highly deceptive picture of what EPA has done to protect workers under the new TSCA and the adequacy of OSHA regulations regarding chemical risks in the workplace and the extent of compliance with them.  This and future posts will address the damaging myths these witnesses are perpetuating, which have unfortunately taken a firm hold in the Trump EPA.

Myth #1:  EPA is committed to protecting workers when reviewing new chemicals under TSCA.   Read More »

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The Trump EPA is throwing workers facing risks from new TSCA chemicals under the bus

Richard Denison, Ph.D.is a Lead Senior Scientist.

[For more on this topic, see our recent 3-part myth-busting series:
Part 1          Part 2         Part 3]

We have blogged before (see here and here) about the steps initiated in mid-2018 by the Trump EPA to weaken new chemical reviews under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – rendering them even less health-protective than under TSCA prior to the 2016 reforms enacted in the Lautenberg Act.

As these debilitating policy changes – still never publicly described or released, and apparently still not written down even for use within EPA – have taken hold, we have seen dozens of flawed new chemical decisions emerge.  We blogged extensively about the first such decision made under the new regimen in late July 2018.  Since then, about 60 more final determinations reflecting the new policies have been posted on EPA’s website.  These decisions pertain mostly to premanufacture notifications (PMNs), along with a few for significant new use notices (SNUNs).  At least 80% of these chemicals were cleared to enter commerce without being subject to any conditions whatsoever.  EPA accomplished this by issuing a final determination that each cleared chemical, or significant new use of a chemical, is “not likely to present an unreasonable risk.”  For these determinations, EPA is required under TSCA to post a statement of its finding, which it does in another table on its website.

We have been closely examining these “not likely” determination documents.  Some deeply disturbing patterns are emerging.  This post will describe one of them.

A new addition to the long and growing list of illegal actions EPA has taken to render the new chemicals program weaker than under the old TSCA.

Most striking is that for a significant majority of these chemicals, EPA either identified significant risks to workers or indicated it had insufficient information to determine the level of risk to workers.  Under the 2016 reforms to TSCA, either finding – that there are or may be risks or that there is insufficient information to determine the level of risk – requires EPA to issue an order specifying conditions sufficient to eliminate the risk.  Yet EPA did no such thing; instead, it cleared the chemicals for unfettered market access.   Read More »

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Podcast: You Make Me Sick! Black lung disease

Black lung disease has burdened coal miners and mining communities for generations. By the late 1960s, improvements in medicine, mining conditions, and federal regulation had led to greater coal worker protection and a subsequent decline in cases of black lung disease. However, in the last two decades, doctors have noticed an alarming trend: black lung disease is on the rise, especially among young miners.

In this episode of our podcast, we spoke with Dr. Edward Petsonk, a pulmonologist and professor at West Virginia University, about his 20 years of research on black lung disease. He unraveled how the disease develops and explained how changes in mining practices may be responsible for its uptick in recent years. Dr. Petsonk also shared the effects that this illness has on miners, their families, and mining communities across the country.

Want more? Subscribe to us on iTunes or Google Play, or check out Podbean to listen via desktop!

Also posted in Health Policy, Health Science / Tagged | Comments are closed